Percival Lowell

Percival Lawrence Lowell (1855 - 1916)

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Percival Lawrence Lowell
Born in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United Statesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married in New York City, New Yorkmap
[children unknown]
Died in Flagstaff, Coconino, Arizona, United Statesmap
Profile last modified | Created 13 Mar 2015 | Last significant change: 15 Nov 2018
19:58: Nicolas LaPointe edited the Biography for Percival Lowell. [Thank Nicolas for this]
This page has been accessed 848 times.

Categories: American Notables.


Percival Lowell is Notable.

Percival Lawrence Lowell (March 13, 1855 – November 12, 1916) was an American businessman, author, mathematician, and astronomer who fueled speculation that there were canals on Mars. He founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and formed the beginning of the effort that led to the discovery of Pluto 14 years after his death.[1]

Author, Astronomer, and Mathematician. He is best remembered for his extensive study of the planet Mars and his theory of a hypothetical planet beyond the planet Neptune that was eventually discovered by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 and named Pluto.

Born into a wealthy family, he graduated in 1872 from the Noble and Green School at Dedham, Massachusetts and Harvard University at Cambridge, Massachusetts four years later with a degree in mathematics. He ran a cotton mill for the next six years before serving as a foreign secretary and counsellor to a Korean mission to the US and travelled extensively in the Far East, returning permanently to the US in 1893.

While travelling in the Far East, he authored the books "Chosön: The Land of the Morning Calm" (1886), "The Soul of the Far East" (1888), "Noto: An Unexplored Corner of Japan" (1891), and "Occult Japan" (or "Way of the Gods") (1894).

He then dedicated his life to astronomy and established the Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff, Arizona where he primarily studied the planet Mars and developed his theories on the planet's "canals" that were created by a dying ancient civilization.

He published his views in the books "Mars" (1895), "Mars and Its Canals" (1906), and "Mars As the Abode of Life" (1908). (His "canal" theories were eventually disproven by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Mariner space missions to Mars that took place in the 1960s.)

In 1906 he started a search program for "Planet X" which by his calculations lay beyond the orbit of Neptune. In 1915 his observatory photographed what would eventually turn out to be the new planet Pluto. His theory of life on Mars would greatly influence science fiction novels, including H.G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds" (1898), Edgar Rice Burroughs' "The Gods of Mars" (1918), Robert A. Heinlein's "Red Planet" (1949), and Ray Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles" (1950).

He died from a stroke at the age of 61.[2]


  1. Wikipedia, "Percival Lowell" (accessed 02/25/2016) [1]
  2. William Bjornstad [2]
  • Find A Grave Memorial# 9455 [3]
  • Zahnel K. (2001). "Decline and Fall of the Martian Empire". Nature 412 (6843): 209–213. doi:10.1038/35084148. PMID 11449281.
  • Crossley R. (2000). "Percival Lowell and the history of Mars". Massachusetts Review 41 (3): 297–318.
  • Strauss D. (1994). "Lowell, Percival, Pickering, W. H. and the founding of the Lowell Observatory". Annals of Science 51 (1): 37–58. doi:10.1080/00033799400200121.
  • Trefil J. (1988). "Turn-of-the-Century American Astronomer Lowell, Percival". Smithsonian 18 (10): 34–.
  • Meyer W. B. (1984). "Life on Mars is almost Certain + Lowell,Percival on Exobiology". American Heritage 35 (2): 38–43.
  • Hetherington N. S. (1981). "Lowell, Percival – Professional Scientist or Interloper". Journal of the History of Ideas 42 (1): 159–161. doi:10.2307/2709423. JSTOR 2709423.
  • Heffernan W. C. (1981). "Lowell, Percival and the Debate over Extraterrestrial Life". Journal of the History of Ideas 42 (3): 527–530. doi:10.2307/2709191. JSTOR 2709191.
  • Webb G. E. (1980). "The Planet Mars and Science in Victorian America". Journal of American Culture 3 (4): 573. doi:10.1111/j.1542-734X.1980.0304_573.x.
  • Hoyt W. G.; Wesley W. G. (1977). "Lowell and Mars". American Journal of Physics 45 (3): 316–317. Bibcode:1977AmJPh..45..316H. doi:10.1119/1.10630.
  • Hofling C. K. (1964). "Percival Lowell and the Canals of Mars". British Journal of Medical Psychology 37 (1): 33–42. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8341.1964.tb01304.x
  • Hill, Edwin Charles. The Historical Register (Edwin C. Hill, New York, 1920) Vol. 2, Page 128-32

More Genealogy Tools

Sponsored Search

Searching for someone else?
First: Last:

DNA Connections
It may be possible to confirm family relationships with Percival by comparing test results with other carriers of his ancestors' Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA. However, there are no known yDNA or mtDNA test-takers in his direct paternal or maternal line. It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share DNA with Percival:

Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.

Images: 1
Percival Lowell Image 1
Percival Lowell Image 1


Percival is 27 degrees from Rosa Parks, 24 degrees from Anne Tichborne and 15 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

L  >  Lowell  >  Percival Lawrence Lowell